Photo: Reuters

The one good thing about a horrible England collapse on Monday is that it took place in a dead rubber against South Africa rather than in the Champions Trophy now looming on their horizon.

Certainly a repeat of the shocker that saw an astonishing six wickets fall in the first five overs of the final one-day international at Lord’s would be fatal in a short tournament where England cannot afford any slip-ups.

At least Monday’s hapless display, such a contrast to a long run of scores where 300-plus has become the norm, might temper some of the expectations that see England face Bangladesh on Thursday as trophy favourites.

It is worth remembering that England were without the injured Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali, and had rested Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett with bigger business to come.

But England’s first-choice batting line-up was mostly intact and this should serve as a warning that, for all their limited-overs transformation, England cannot expect to blast their way to a massive total in every match.

Certainly they should have shown more nous and taken stock after Jason Roy, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan had been undone by good balls from Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell once South Africa had won the toss.

Instead Alex Hales, Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid - promoted to No 7 in a weakened England line-up - were brainless, aiming loose expansive drives before they had a chance to settle in demanding conditions.

Before many spectators had taken their seats, England were, unbelievably, 20 for six, the sixth wicket falling earlier than in any other one-dayer, and Rabada had claimed four of them with an outstanding display of fast bowling.

There was no way back from there but at least the man who cannot force his way into England’s first-choice side, however hard he tries, provided another compelling case for his inclusion.

South Africa's players celebrate taking the wicket of England's Jonny Bairstow. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

It still seems likely that Jonny Bairstow will be missing when England step out at The Oval on Thursday but he surely cannot do any more to prove that he should be squeezed into the team.

Here Bairstow steadied England’s ship, making sure they surpassed their worst one-day total of 86 and gave the spectators something of a game with another half-century.

England have paid the price for making late changes before a big tournament before, most recently when Gary Ballance was summoned on the eve of the last World Cup, but they must think hard about Bairstow.

Providing Stokes is fit, Roy is the most vulnerable member of England’s batting line-up after a run of four single-figure scores in his last five one-day internationals and a miserable time in the Indian Premier League.

And Bairstow has good credentials to play as an opener, highlighted when he smashed 174 for Yorkshire in 50-over cricket against Durham this season.

England rate Roy very highly while Morgan, for some reason, seems to have reservations about the merits of Bairstow, but if the Surrey man survives he will be under huge scrutiny.

Even Bairstow gave his wicket away on Wednesday when, old-fashioned though it might be, England would have been better off trying to use up their overs, especially with rain forecast.

Keshav Maharaj celebrates with AB de Villiers after England's Jonny Bairstow was stumped by Quinton de Kock. Photo: Steven Paston//PA via AP

But it is hard to criticise Bairstow for being stumped off a rare ball that turned from Keshav Maharaj when there was such an inviting gap and England were running out of wickets.

David Willey added 62 with Bairstow before one of the three players called up on the eve of the match to fill in for the injured trio omitted as a precaution, we are assured, showed why he too is pushing for a place.

Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones is highly regarded and came to prominence last year with a hat-trick against Yorkshire here at Lord’s to clinch the County Championship.

Now he showed guts and promise with the bat, hitting Chris Morris for six after being struck a nasty blow on the helmet and reaching 37 before Jake Ball and Steven Finn left 18.5 overs wasted.

Roland-Jones impressed with the ball too, bowling Hashim Amla. Ball was excellent in adding the scalps of Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis but England had not done enough to cause South Africa to wobble.

The visitors won with 127 balls in hand to end England’s run of eight successive one-day wins, but the series belonged to Morgan’s side for their wins at Headingley and Southampton.

Now they must ensure they pass their Champions Trophy examination after failing this mock.